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Departmental Billing

Volume 498: debated on Wednesday 28 October 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with reference to page 17 of his Department's Resource Accounts for 2008-09, HC 449, for what reasons 13 per cent. of invoices submitted to his Department were not paid on time. (294664)

Until July 2008, the Department operated a decentralised payment processing model, with business areas processing supplier invoices independently of each other and the "centre". This arrangement was inherently inefficient, allowing delays and errors in the processing of payments, which in turn contributed to a low performance against Whitehall prompt payment targets.

In July 2008 the Department introduced centralised processing of invoices, resulting in a more effective and efficient means of handling, authorising and paying supplier accounts rendered. This change in approach had an immediate positive impact on performance, which improved steadily through the reporting year. Clearance of an inherited backlog of unpaid invoices had an impact on payment performance. The introduction across Whitehall of a 10 day prompt payment policy in December 2008 provided a further impetus for improvement, and processes were further automated and streamlined to meet the new challenges.

In the current financial year these process enhancements have continued and the further exploitation of technology continues to generate improvements against the Whitehall 10 day prompt payment target, raising current performance to above 90 per cent. of valid invoices being paid within 10 days of receipt. The comparable figure for the resource account in the current financial year is above 95 per cent.